Building Rapport – An Essential NLP Skill That is Often Misunderstood

Rintu BasuTraining5 Comments

The young couple with different emotions during conflict on gray background

There are a lot of misconceptions about how rapport works. The standard NLP perspective on rapport building is all about matching and mirroring. That is matching and mirroring body language, breathing, tone of voice, language words and anything else. Sadly this is not even close to what Rapport really is.


Can NLP Trainers Build Rapport?

But the reality is something different. Here is how some NLP Trainers have managed to quite subtly completely miss the point.

Building Rapport is Vital

On the free Hypnotic Persuasion Skills Course you will have already heard me say that rapport is vital. However good the patterns are they are only as good as the amount of rapport you have. As such it is important to be able to build rapport when you need it.


Below you will discover a way you can learn some of the key secrets to incredibly deep rapport quickly and easily. You can find very powerful techniques to take covert control of a conversation on my Hypnotic Persuasion Applied to Interview Skills Programme.

Tormenting NLP Practitioners

One of my most favourite activities is tormenting newbie NLP Practitioners who have been sold this misconception about rapport building. As they desperately try to match and mirror me I will develop odd facial twitches, scratch various bits of my body and start leaning in various different directions. My best claim to fame is getting three newbie practitioners to fall out of their chairs in sequence just by the right amount of leaning.

Think about the people in your life who you have a great deal of rapport with. When you think about particular situations I think you can remember times when you had rapport with those people but were not particularly matching or mirroring anything about them. The reality is when you have rapport people naturally match and mirror each other. This means matching and mirroring is a rapport indicator and not necessarily a rapport builder.

Many NLP Trainers don’t emphasise that rapport is a process not a thing. Next time you have a long conversation with someone just notice how the rapport changes as you agree and disagree with various points made during the conversation.  Rapport is not a fixed state it fluctuates, ebbs and flows as a naturally as the conversation.

Another aspect of rapport is often not explained by all NLP Trainers is that it is not necessarily about liking, but just about increasing responsiveness. Just look at two people in an intense argument. They will be very well matched with tone, volume and pace of voice and usually body language as well. They will be hyper sensitive and responding very quickly to changes in the other person. This is rapport just as much as feeling of warmth, connection and friendship towards a friend.

How do you build rapport?

Does that mean you can’t use matching and mirroring to get rapport? Actually, it does help but is not particularly effective. Rapport is a more sophisticated thing. A good NLP Course will give you a great many ideas on how to build rapport. The best NLP Trainers will give you a solid process on how to build that instantaneous connection with anyone.

A simple way of building rapport would be to really see the world through the eyes of the other person and build a connection with them from there. There are a number of processes that can help you to do this, but some very effective approaches are well described on the Advanced Persuasion Pattern Course.

As a final point the issue is not actually about how do you build rapport, but what are you going to do once you have it. What that means is having some idea of influence and persuasion skills, having some clear outcomes for the conversation and moving people in the direction you want them to go.

Good NLP Training will show you much more than just how to build rapport. All my Persuasion Skills Training is about you developing the skills to increase responsiveness so you can move people to a result that serves you and them. A great place to find out more is the Advanced Persuasion Patterns FAQ Page here:

5 Comments on “Building Rapport – An Essential NLP Skill That is Often Misunderstood”

  1. Rintu Basu

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for your comment. I agree with everything that you have said. If your intent and focus is right then matching and mirroring technqiues will help (although there are approaches that are much more powerful). But if you have some sort of baggage around the person you are building rapport with then you will find matching and mirroring doesn’t always work.
    Closing sales is usually going to be easier in rapport and in most cases your idea is exactly right, have rapport before you close.
    Although I will add that in some cases having to much rapport is not the most useful thing. For example when handling objections it is important that you lead your prospect from their current thinking to a way of thinking that supports them buying the product (assuming this is the best choice for them). My intention would be to use techniques that were about getting them to build rapport with me and moving to my mind set rather than me building rapport with them. The distinction is a fine one, but by taking the lead and getting them to build rapport what happens is you will be leading them from their old thinking to your new way…and not the other way round.


  2. Greg Woodley

    interesting discussion about Rapport. I’ve used it in sales for 25 years (about 12 years of which after I found out what it was at an NLP course). I have used matching and mirroring to help set up rapport but behind that was always my motive of helping the customer, maybe that helped a lot.
    I think it’s quite important not to try and close a sale while you are out of rapport with the client

  3. Rintu Basu

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the comments. It is nice to know that there are others that have noticed this big misconception about rapport.
    You have also hit on another area that there is not enough said about on particularl courses and that is about leading. Pacing a current situation and leading to where you want to go is what this is all about…therefore as you say matching someone is nowhere near enough.
    I had a look at your website, lots of great content. I will spend some time looking through it.
    Thanks for taking the time to make contact.


  4. Michael Cushman


    For me, you are the first NLP person to understand matching is limited at developing rapport.

    I study nonverbal signals, and I have come to the conclusion, based on research, that matching a stranger doesn’t work, he or she naturally shifts. Matching is really for friends and lovers. Matching a person of higher status, unless there’s strong rapport, is a disaster (it creates hostility).

    Matching is also following, but to influence, one must lead. It’s much more important to take the higher status position and lead as soon as possible. They will match you if you lead and you build rapport.

    There’s much more to say on the topic, but this isn’t the place. Thanks for sharing your refreshing views. For me, it gives you significant credibility.


  5. Todd

    I find your article very informative and entertaining. There are a great many trainers of NLP who have forgotten one of the Presup’s of NLP (that is if you subscribe to Presup’s). And that is the Law of Requisite Variety. The person within the system with the most flexibility controls the system.

    You have shown your great amount of flexibility.

    I have put together a teleseminar series I think you and your readers would be very interested in. We have gathered some of the greats of both NLP and marketing where we interview them each week on different topics ranging from building a successful practice to how to market your business on-line.

    We hope to see you on The NLP Summit 2.0

    Choose to make it an outstanding day,
    – Todd

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